Sincere and authentic, Beypazarı await visitors
WILCO VAN HERPEN
Thanks to a project, with just a handful of women in 1999, nowadays at least 450 women are working for themselves in Beypazarı.Sometimes visiting a place in Turkey a couple of times shows you the development of a town. Last week, while visiting Beypazarı I was very curious to see if the town had changed over time. It must have been six years ago that I visited Beypazarı the last time and therefore expected major changes.
When I arrived in the center I noticed that, at least here, not much had changed. It looked the same and while walking around in the center, I was greeted with as much enthusiasm by the people as six years ago. One of the things that struck me the first time while visiting Beypazarı was the number of women selling souvenirs and food. Everywhere I walked, I saw women being successful entrepreneurs.
Some of them had a shop on the “İstiklal Avenue” of Beypazarı; Demirci Çarşı. Other women were selling their goods from a stall, but one thing they all had in common; the way of approaching the customers was very nice and modest. Wherever you went, they offered you stuffed grape leaves or Turkish delights made from carrot. No obligations to buy their products at all; you could taste it, thank them and walk on. Not one woman would say anything about it. What a contrast to Cumalıkızık near Bursa. Cumalıkızık is a nice old town with old Ottoman houses like Şirince or Birgi, but the way most of the locals treat you is not as nice as the way Beypazarı people treat you.
On an initiative from the former mayor of Beypazarı, Mansur Yavaş who is currently running for Ankara mayoral post on the ranks of the main opposition party, a project was started to have more women actively involved in the local economy. The mayor encouraged women to start opening their own businesses; and slowly, the project became a success. With just a handful of women in 1999, nowadays at least 450 women are working for themselves. The work they do varies from having their own shop, like selling herbs, homemade souvenirs or food, to selling fresh pressed juices and homemade ayran. One woman I spoke with told me that when she told her husband she wanted to start working, he told her not to be crazy and stay at home. Somehow, she managed to persuade him and she started working. Although squared (for what reason whatsoever) in the beginning, her husband became very enthusiastic about it once he saw how much money the woman brought in every week.
No malls, no chain cafes
If you plan to go to Beypazarı and expect to find a Macdonald’s, Starbucks or big shopping center, I can tell you that you can stay at home. There is no Gloria Jeans or Burger King as well; what a relief. My philosophy is that once those kinds of places open their doors in a cute little town, the character of that place is gone. It means commerce took over and that generally destroys the authentic feeling of that place. The reason why I visit places like Beypazarı, Şirince or Birgi is the lack of those globalized shops.
I want to see a blacksmith working, a person that sells herbs, someone who makes handmade blankets or a little restaurant with local food. All of this (and much more) you can find in Beypazarı.
The first shop I visited was the shop of Şenay Yılmaz and Nesrin Aksoy. With a big smile on their faces, it was them who recognized me, invited me in and directly started “feeding” me. First a piece of dolma (rice stuffed grape leaves) and after that, their famous baklava... One of the many things they sell is a homemade soup called Tarhana soup. This is one of the many specialties of Turkish food; a kind of instant soup. People mix the ingredients of the soup and sun-dry them. This actually might have been one of the first instant soups in the world. The advantage of such a soup is that when you are travelling, you take the powder with you and prepare a meal in a very short time. Besides Tarhana soup, they sell herbs and herbal teas. I bought dried onion and garlic (have no clue what I am going to use this for, but the taste is beautiful) and some Tarhana soup. After getting instructions on how to make the soup I left their shop and continued my walk.
When I am travelling, I am always open for surprises. Therefore, I not only walk the main road, but also try my way around in the narrow alleys where you generally find fewer tourists as well. It was during such a stroll I saw a sign that read: “Burda kurşun döküyoruz” (pouring lead over you to get rid of your Nazar. Nazar means evil eye, a belief that you can get the karma of other people and carry it with you.
To protect you against Nazar you can buy the beautiful Nazar boncuğu in Turkey.) This looked like an interesting thing, so I went in and asked if they could pour lead over me. Wondering what the woman was going to do with me, I asked her kindly if she could explain what it meant, but all she did was smile. I had to sit down on the floor in front of a round tray where little cups with salt, sugar and rice were placed. Salt should soothe the pain, the sugar was for the sweetness of life and the rice symbolizes prosperity in life. Then she put a cloth over my head; I could not see a thing anymore. It was quiet for a while and suddenly I heard a strange sound that was a mixture of a very small explosion and some hard sizzling. The woman took the cloth off my head and showed me the lead. Besides one big lump of lead there were small pieces of lead spread around in the bowl that was filled with water. It turned out that she had poured the melted led in the bowl with ice-cold water. “I set you free of your Nazar” the woman told me, but I still did not know if that was a good or a bad thing. She explained that especially people who meet a lot of other people gather Nazar (the vibes of other people). Through pouring the lead in the water she captured my negative energy in the lead.
Freed from my Nazar, I continued down the road; life can be so beautiful…